What Can You Do With a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?

Preliminary reports released in the past few months show that 24.1 percent of history Ph.D.s and 21 percent of English and foreign language Ph.D.s over the last decade took jobs in business, museums, and publishing houses, among other industries.

.. Part of the reason we don’t see this story as clearly is that Ph.D.s who leave tend to be less vocal about the horrors of academia. “The people who end up in adjunct jobs are the most embittered about the profession,” Robert Townsend, director of the Washington Office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the AHA report, told me. “They are most likely to talk about how they feel about the job market and this creates a certain misimpression about the overall outcomes of humanities Ph.D.s.” Adjuncts have every reason to be angry: Apart from their abysmal pay, they are often treated as second-class citizens by their departments and colleagues.

Quick and Dirty: On Scholarship as Manual Labor

Quick, in the sense I’m talking about it here, is not a question of who writes the fastest or about the number of words per minute you can type. Rather, it is the speed to writing I am referring to, the art of being able to put words on paper without thinking about it too much—write first, think then, edit later. To be quick to subject your arguments to the friction of the paper means that you’ll discover the flaws of your thinking faster, see where your reasoning doesn’t work, and actually save those thoughts that deserves saving.

.. separation of a specific field, such as “the economy,” by necessity leads us into a paradox. If you reduce the field to a set of functions such as production, distribution, and consumption, you will neglect phenomena that are actually needed to grasp the field, such as, the role of poetry in publishing. But if you try to adopt a more holistic, systemic view, including everything that might play a role, you will lose sight of the field of interest, and start studying “everything.” Research, in this sense, becomes a continuous balancing act between delimitation and inclusion

We need more scientific mavericks

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” said Richard Feynmanin the 1960s. But times change. Before about 1970, academics had access to modest funding they could use freely. Industry was similarly enlightened.

.. Nowadays, fields where understanding is poor are usually neglected because researchers must convince experts that working in them will be beneficial.

Jared Diamond: Interdisciplinary Careers are Hard

In academia, working in multiple fields is not a benefit but a penalty.” So much so that he now advises young academics to “make sure you get tenure before you start publishing in a second field”. “In academia people talk about interdisciplinary thinking and run courses and programmes – but Lord help you if you try to make an interdisciplinary career, unless you are already so high that there is nothing they can do to you.”